Three senior Church of England bishops met this morning (12/2) with Government Minister Lord de Mauley to discuss the impact of the floods in England and the action being taken to support affected communities.?
?The Bishops of St Albans, Peterborough and Worcester, who met with the Minister at the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), voiced concern for those most seriously affected, both in their dioceses and across the country, especially communities in the south west of England.?
?The bishops also highlighted the actions that the churches are already taking in the flood affected areas ? including making churches and halls available for those who had been evacuated, offering drop in centres, visiting housebound people and delivering food parcels. ??The bishops spoke about the experiences of people on the ground in various parts of the country, which had been brought to their attention by colleagues in other dioceses and churches, especially the Methodist Church. They thanked the Minister for all that Government was already doing and praised the response of the emergency services and the voluntary sector.?
?The Minister assured the bishops that work was already underway on the Somerset Plan, the strategic approach for the next 25 years looking at land usage. On Monday the Minister credited churches in Somerset for the support that they were already giving to local communities.?
?In his capacity as lead spokesman on rural affairs issues for the bishops in the House of Lords the Rt Rev Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, repeated the concerns he and colleagues had received about the overall impact on south west of England.?
?Bishop Alan said: ?We are hearing stories of the suffering of people in flooded areas and want to offer help wherever possible.??
?He asked the Minister what further aid the Government could offer to the tourist industry, particularly in Cornwall, which was suffering additionally as a result of the disruption in rail travel. Discussing future resilience to flooding, Bishop Alan stressed the need for long term coordinated planning to balance the needs of the farming community with the desire to protect wildlife, and the necessity of tree planting, amongst other measures, to help maximise water retention.?
?The Bishop of Worcester, Rt Rev John Inge, spoke to the Minister about the situation in his own diocese, where much of the city itself is experiencing serious flooding.?
?Bishop John said: ?Whilst there have been some excellent new flood defences put in place in Worcestershire since 2007, the city of Worcester itself has once again been crippled by these floods. I pay tribute to the emergency services that are under increased pressure at this time, but it has to be recognised that there is very real concern about the future impact of flooding on the City. The economic and human cost of flooding is very great.??
?The Bishop of Peterborough, Rt Rev Donald Allister, who also speaks for the bishops on rural affairs issues in the House of Lords, raised with the Minister the serious stress being felt by rural and farming communities. He highlighted the support that the Farming Community Network, of which he is a trustee, was already offering to farming families.?
?The meeting followed a direct appeal by the Bishop of Taunton to the bishops in the House of Lords to raise the situation of flooding on the Somerset Levels. The Bishop of St Albans is seeking to follow up today?s meeting with a further meeting with Ministers from the Department for Communities and Local Government, which has lead responsibility for disaster and community resilience. ?